Conglomeration of youth, experience & performance went into making Blue Tigers squad: Igor Stimac -
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Conglomeration of youth, experience & performance went into making Blue Tigers squad: Igor Stimac

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Khel Today Reporter

NEW DELHI: There have been several new faces in the 27-man Blue Tigers squad that has traveled to Dubai, UAE for their two International Friendlies, and head coach Igor Stimac made it known that the selection was based on some criteria, including Hero ISL form, past performances for the National Team, and overall experience.

Speaking Live on AIFF TV, Stimac, on Thursday, explained his decision-making process for squad-selection, stating that it was based on a “conglomeration” of different criteria.

“A conglomeration of different factors (went into deciding the squad). Most of the players made it to the squad on merit. But there are a few who have also proved themselves on the international stage. A few poor performances should not erase them from the squad,” said Stimac.

The Blue Tigers boss further took pride in the fact that he has an extremely young squad at his disposal.

It’s a long process, and we are preparing to play and win against the best,” he continued. “We are trying to build on the U-17s and develop their knowledge. Football promotion has grown leaps and bounds in India. Soon, football will take over as the number one sport here.”

Apart from the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Qualifiers, the Blue Tigers have also played many International Friendlies against quality opponents like Curacao, Thailand, Tajikistan, Syria, and DPR Korea. With two more International Friendlies scheduled against Oman (March 25) and the UAE (March 29), the Croatian coach outlined his philosophy of playing the best in the business, to improve.

“As part of our footballing philosophy, we do not look for easy opponents. We can improve only by playing against better sides,” mentioned the India head coach.

“Immediately after we found out (that the World Cup Qualifiers were postponed to June), we were able to confirm two friendlies against Oman and UAE, with the help of Abhishek Yadav (Deputy General Secretary, AIFF) and Kushal Das (General Secretary, AIFF),” he continued. “We need to come to the pitch without any fear, we need to try to make our transitions properly, and we need to try and enjoy the possession that we have. That’s what I want to ask of my players.”

Stimac will be up against his compatriot Branko Ivankovic in the first of the two friendlies, which are to be played in the UAE, and the 53-year-old believes that a young and motivated Oman side awaits the Blue Tigers on March 25.

“They (Oman) changed their coach and my dear friend Branko is there now. We spent a lovely evening discussing the future of Oman and Indian football. He was quite impressed with how much India has improved, and said that we have a great bunch of players – a compact team,” revealed Stimac. “It will be a difficult game.”

While the Blue Tigers get set for their return to International football after the pandemic, they will be without their captain and talismanic striker Sunil Chhetri, who has himself tested positive for COVID. Drew confidence from India’s performances (sans Sunil Chhetri) against Thailand (1-0) and Qatar (0-0), he felt that team as a whole need to step up.

The Blue Tigers head coach further went on to heap praises on Sunil Chhetri, stating that his presence motivates youngsters because not many players of his age can continue performing at the same level.

“There are not many players at that age, playing at such a high level. When you watch Sunil this season, you can see that he has improved, even though Bengaluru FC did not play as well. His individual numbers show that,” said Stimac.

“It is important for youngsters to develop that knowledge when they are with him. I hope he stays motivated, because there’s still space left to improve, and there’s a lot left in him.” (AIFF Team)

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